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No free rides from NOTA

January 09, 2013 - Effective Feb. 1, riders of the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) will be charged $1 and $2 fares for one-way rides.

The fares are the first time the organization has charged for riders. Even with the move, NOTA will still have to reduce its services by one bus, due to revenue shortages. Without the fare charges NOTA would have lost two vehicles, which would have impacted services more.

The NOTA board voted 8-0 in December to implement the new fare system. NOTA serves Orion, Oxford and Addison townships and the villages of Lake Orion, Oxford and Leonard.

For those interested, the NOTA board will hold its monthly meeting in January in the lower level of the Orion Township Hall on January 17 at 4:30 p.m.

Those who qualify for NOTA rides are senior citizens, disabled individuals, and low income residents. They receive free rides now for such things as medical appointments, jobs, shopping and many other activities.

Under the new price schedule, NOTA will charge $1 each way for rides within Orion, Addison and Oxford townships as well as the villages of Orion, Oxford and Leonard. Riders going outside of the three townships, but still within NOTA's nearby service areas, will pay $2 each way.

The fares are designed to help make up for revenue shortfalls NOTA will see in 2013 from about $80,000 less in New Freedom Urban grant funds it receives from the federal government. The funds were used to pay for disabled riders.

By implementing the fares, NOTA is expected to generate about $50,800, based on ridership estimates.

Losing the full $80,000 would have forced NOTA to take two of its 17 vehicles off the road.

Even with the fares, NOTA will still lose one bus in its operations, which run Monday through Friday. The bus will come off on February 1.

Board members said that it costs NOTA about $20 for each ride it provides. Costs have risen in recent years due to gasoline and other higher expenses. So even with the $1 and $2 fares, NOTA and its municipalities are still subsidizing $18 to $19 for each ride.

NOTA provides about 42,000 rides annually and travels nearly a half million miles.

Several board members expressed concern that the new fares would hurt some residents who now use the service.

Board member Buck Cryderman expressed concern for those who could not afford the extra fees.

"If a person doesn't have any money, you can't tell them they can't have a ride," Cryderman said.

To help those people, NOTA will establish a assistance fund whereby individuals, organizations and companies can make donations to help cash-strapped riders. Cryderman offered to make the first $20 donation.

Also, under the fare system, each rider will be granted a $20 credit limit.

"That way if they're short on cash during the month, they can still ride," said NOTA Director Lynn Gustafson.

Once the $20 cap is reached, they would have to pay all or a portion before they could receive a ride.

NOTA riders who are part of Training and Treatment Innovations (TTI) will still ride for free to and from Oxford's facilities.

That's because TTI makes an annual contribution of $200,000 to cover its riders.

TTI provides mental health services to those with psychiatric problems or developmental disabilities. TTI riders who want to go to other places other than the TTI offices in Oxford will have to pay NOTA's fares, Gustafson said.

Information from The Oxford Leader was used in this story.

Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.
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